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Robert F. Kennedy’s granddaughter and her son presumed dead after canoeing mishap

The missing relatives were identified as Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and McKean’s 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean.

This undated image posted on Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean’s Facebook account shows her with her family, including her son Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean (bottom right).
This undated image posted on Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean’s Facebook account shows her with her family, including her son Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean (bottom right).
AP

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Authorities were conducting a “recovery” search for the daughter and a grandson of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, after a canoe they were paddling in the Chesapeake Bay didn’t return to shore, the family said Friday.

The missing relatives were identified as Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean, 40, and McKean’s 8-year-old son, Gideon Joseph Kennedy McKean.

“With profound sadness, I share the news that the search for my beloved daughter Maeve and grandson Gideon has turned from rescue to recovery,” Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said in a statement Friday night, according to news outlets.

A Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman said authorities suspended the search Friday night but would resume Saturday morning.

Kennedy Townsend, who served two terms as Maryland’s lieutenant governor, is the eldest daughter of the late U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and niece of the late President John F. Kennedy.

“I reached out to and spoke with Lt. Gov. Townsend this morning and on behalf of the people of Maryland I expressed our most heartfelt sympathies and prayers to her and to her entire family during this difficult time,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Friday afternoon.

The search started Thursday afternoon after the state Natural Resources Police responded to a report of two people on a canoe in the Chesapeake Bay who appeared to be overtaken by strong winds.

A statement from the agency, which didn’t name the missing people, said they may have been paddling the canoe from a home in Shady Side, Maryland, to retrieve a ball and couldn’t paddle back to shore. An overturned canoe matching the one used by the missing people was found on Thursday night, the agency said.

“News of this tragedy hit me and my family hard this morning,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. “We are holding Kathleen and her family in the light, and holding our own loved ones a little closer as we reflect on their pain and their loss,” he said in a statement.

Maeve’s husband David McKean wrote a note on Facebook late Friday, which read in part: “Despite heroic efforts by the Coast Guard and many state and local authorities, the decision has now been made to suspend the active rescue effort. The search that began yesterday afternoon went on throughout the night and continued all day today. It is now dark again. It has been more than 24 hours, and the chances they have survived are impossibly small. It is clear that Maeve and Gideon have passed away. The search for their recovery will continue, and I hope that that will be successful.”

Maeve McKean, a public health and human rights lawyer, served as executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative, news outlets reported. The initiative’s website says her work focused on “the intersection of global health and human rights.” McKean previously served as an associate research professor at the City University of New York School of Public Health.

“Our Maeve dedicated her life to society’s most vulnerable,” Kennedy Townsend said in a statement, adding that her grandson Gideon was a “loving” big brother who excelled at sports, riddles, math and chess. “My heart is crushed, yet we shall try to summon the grace of God and what strength we have to honor the hope, energy and passion that Maeve and Gideon set forth into the world.”

Contributing: USA Today